Liberia – Ex-Militia, Civilian Claim Gibril Massaquoi Was Called ‘Angel Gabriel’

Says he gave “shoot and kill” orders at Waterside.

Appeal hearings in Monrovia for Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean man accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia, is getting more dramatic as they near one month, with two additional prosecution witnesses corroborating the testimonies of other witnesses that he was called “Angel Gabriel,” the name he’s alleged to have infamously used during the country’s second civil war.

Witnesses have claimed he called himself by the name to civilians or fellow soldiers before “sending them to God.”

“There were lots of killings that went on,” said “Soldier Y5.” The witness told the Turku Appeals Court he was recruited by the government of Charles Taylor, the Liberian President at the time to fight rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), who eventually helped force Mr Taylor out of office in August 2003.

Y5, 44, said civilians, including women and young men, who had gone to Waterside, one of Liberia’s major commercial hubs, were ill-treated and killed by soldiers from the Revolutionary United Front, RUF assigned to Mr Massaquoi.

“It was Angel Gabriel who gave the orders after Salome’s death. Angel Gabriel was the commander of the Igbah men (the other name witnesses have claimed RUF rebels were called by). Yes, he gave orders too. The orders were shoot and kill. Angel Gabriel took orders from “50” (Benjamin Yeaten, head of the Special Security Service, now Executive Protection Agency), who was the overall boss.”

Mr Massaquoi’s controversial name has formed a key part of the marathon trial. The Pirkanmaa District Court acquitted him in April 2021 because prosecutors didn’t prove his charges, including aggravated rape and murder, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As well as arguing that Mr Massaquoi, 53, broke “safe house rules” of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he as a “protected witness,” and came to Liberia to fight for Taylor’s forces, prosecutors are also trying to prove on appeal that he was also called Angel Gabriel. And they are lining up witnesses they believe can strengthen their argument and convince the 3-judge panel to rule in their favour.

“Y4”, Friday’s only civilian witness, was the other person they looked up to boost their line of argument. Y4 claimed Mr Massaquoi’s nickname was common with anyone who went to Waterside during that time.

“We used to go and fetch for food for our family,” said Y4. “The Igbah group, I used to see them with Yeaten. I know some of their commanders like Mosquito, Prince. They had one Gibril, Salome, Prince, a Sierra Loenen Kissi guy called Fayiah. Gibril was Angel Gabriel. That’s how they used to call him. They were killing civilians in search of food.”

Like other prosecution witnesses, Friday’s witnesses told the court the alleged killings happened because Mr Massaquoi was unhappy about the killing of Salome, one of his soldiers, who was allegedly killed by a rocket from LURD rebels.

Y4 also claimed that similar killings took place in Monrovia’s Gardnerville and Stockholm Creek Bridge bride areas. Mr Massaquoi is following the hearings by a video link from the district court. His lawyers have repeatedly denied the allegations against him and questioned the witnesses’ credibility.

The proceedings continue on Monday.

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.


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